Stages of the Grieving Process: 2/14 Digital Archive

Grades 9 through 12

Sociology, Psychology

To introduce the topic of loss and grieving, students will analyze the objects found at NIU 2/14 memorials.  Students will explore how people use the memorial to cope with loss and how memorials help people through the grieving process. 


Students will analyze memorial objects and relate them to stages of grief
Students will explore how society copes with loss and how people react to tragedy
Students will identify events in their own lives and reflect on their personal grieving process

Access to computer lab; pictures of NIU memorials


Activity 1: 10 minutes

Introduce students to the stages of grief.  Start the topic by explaining that we all experience loss in our lives and that by understanding more about the grieving process we may be better able to deal with it. Inform students that they will have the opportunity to think about the reactions to the 2/14 shooting at NIU as well as their own personal loss.

Loss of a loved one can cause a major emotional crisis in our lives. But other kinds of loss can cause great distress too -- loss of possessions especially in traumatic situations such as fire or natural disasters, loss of a job, loss of health, loss of a pet or simply losing somebody because they have moved away—are all events that can leave us feeling sorrowful and confused. On a rational level we know that loss affects everybody at some time or another, it is a normal part of life. But that knowledge does not protect us from the pain we feel when the loss is in our own life.

However, feeling sorrow and grief is a process that most people can work through given time and support. Some key stages in the process have been identified and it is helpful to know what these are so that we can understand our feelings when we experience loss (write on board or hand out copies):

shock stage: initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
denial stage: trying to avoid the inevitable.
anger stage: frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
bargaining stage: seeking in vain for a way out.
depression stage: final realization of the inevitable.
testing stage: seeking realistic solutions.
acceptance stage: finally finding the way forward.
Allow students to provide examples or hypothetical responses to situations leading to grief, and allow time for any questions or clarification.  Briefly explain the tragedy that occurred at NIU on February 14th and pass around pictures of the memorials.  Ask students why they think people feel the need to leave objects at a memorial.  Ask what certain objects like candles, flowers, and cards represent.  Allow a few minutes for discussion or student concerns and answer any questions.

Activity 2: 30 minutes (computer access required)

Explain to students that their assignment is to search the February 14, 2008 Memorial website and discover memorial objects that relate to the stages of grief.  Students are to find at least 8 objects, write a short description of the object, write how it is associated with a particular stage of grief, and any further interpretation.  Students can relate any object to any stage of grief as long as their interpretation of the object is properly associated with a specific grieving stage.  If students need to, they can further explore the  February 14, 2008 Memorial website  and find other aspects to relate to grief (e.g. StoryCorps interviews, user contrbutions etc.)  Students can associate any object with any grief stage as long as their interpretation fits properly. 

Activity 3: 10-15 minutes  (and homework)

Explain to students that they are now to reflect on a time of their own life when they experience loss or tragedy.  This could be the death of someone close, the loss of a pet, the loss of a job, economic trouble, or dealing with stress in one’s own life.  Students should reflect on this experience in detail and explain how they coped.  Students should be sure to explain any stages of grief they experienced.  Emphasize that students should incorporate any information from the  February 14, 2008 Memorial website  that they can relate to their own experience (i.e. similarities in the way people cope with the 2/14 tragedy, and how the student handled their own experience).  This writing assignment should be started in class, and finished for homework that night. 


Students will be evaluated on their ability to relate the stages of grief to individual memorial objects.  The objects they choose and their written analysis should accurately demonstrate the students’ understanding of the stage of grief and how it relates to the object chosen. 

Students will also be evaluated on their written reflection.  Their writing should show thoughtful analysis of their experience and how they grieved.   The reflection should display their understanding on the topics covered in class and any similarities they were able to associate with the 2/14 memorials.